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Press Release At Ceremonial Swearing In, Supreme Judicial Court Justice Kafker Says, "I feel this enormous debt of gratitude"

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  • Supreme Judicial Court
  • Massachusetts Court System

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Jennifer Donahue and Erika Gully-Santiago

BOSTON, MAGovernor Charlie Baker today delivered a ceremonial administration of the Oath of Office in the Great Hall of the John Adams Courthouse, swearing in the Honorable Scott L. Kafker as Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

“Justice Kafker has served the people of Massachusetts with fairness and impartiality for nearly three decades and the knowledge he brought to both the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court has been invaluable,” said Governor Baker. “I am honored to swear Justice Kafker in to the state’s highest court and thank the Supreme Judicial Court Nominating Committee and the Governor’s Council for their comprehensive examination and confirmation.”

"Throughout his distinguished career, Justice Kafker has remained dedicated to public service and his temperament and character will serve the court and the Commonwealth well on the Supreme Judicial Court,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.

"As Thanksgiving approaches, I can say with absolute assurance that there is no one more thankful, or at least no one who should be more thankful and grateful than I am today. As I look around this hall, I feel this enormous debt of gratitude to every person present. I have worked with you, learned from you, shared personal and professional successes and failures with you, and greatly benefitted from your love, wisdom and support all along the way," Justice Kafker said. "To be standing here, I needed every one of you sitting here."

Justice Kafker talked about the lengthy selection process to become a Supreme Judicial Court Justice, and thanked everyone involved in that process. "I feel a personal obligation to live up to the high standards each of you has established and required for this position," Justice Kafker said.

Justice Kafker talked about the support of his family, friends and work colleagues, specifically the support of his wife, Lea Anne, whose "love and strength, and her sacrifices for the rest of us, are the guiding forces in our family." He also spoke of his mother, and said of her that "if she had been born a generation later, in a different era, I am sure Governor Baker would be swearing her in as an SJC judge, not me. She is clearly the brains on my side of the family."

Justice Kafker said that he had many things to be thankful for, among them that he is a 27-year cancer survivor. "If you have had personal experiences with cancer, you know you never think the same about the future. You no longer feel immortal, no matter what the doctors say, and you want to make sure every day counts. After finishing my treatment, I decided I wanted to maximize my chances of making a difference in other people’s lives."

That proved to be a turning point in his life. At the advice of Judge Mark L. Wolf of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, for whom Justice Kafker worked as a law clerk, he took a position working in the Governor's Legal Office for then newly elected Governor William Weld and the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel, who at that time was Robert J. Cordy, who went on to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court from 2001 to 2016. He also met and befriended another lawyer there, who is now a colleague on the bench - Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice David A. Lowy.

Justice Kafker talked about the influence of a book entitled, Laboratories of Democracy by David Osborne, which he said takes its title from a judicial decision written by United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis as follows:

To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility. Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the Nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country. This Court has the power to prevent an experiment. But in the exercise of this high power, we must be ever on our guard, lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles. If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.

Justice Kafker said that he has been "privileged to be a part of that experimentation" for the past 25 years, and that "there is an empirical, practical reality to state government that I have been fascinated with from day one."

Justice Kafker ended with a quote from Article XVIII of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution that reads in part, "A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution...(is) absolutely necessary to preserve the advantages of liberty and to maintain a free government."

"I am a true believer in those lines written by John Adams," Justice Kafker said. "I draw deeply on the wisdom of those who have authored and interpreted our state and federal constitutions."

Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice David A. Lowy delivered opening remarks followed by Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Elspeth B. Cypher, and retired Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justices Judith Cowin and Robert J. Cordy.

Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito each delivered remarks; Justice Kafker addressed the gathered crowd after Governor Baker administered the ceremonial Oath of Office.

Justice Kafker was administered the official oath on August 21, 2017, before the start of the new court year in order to begin hearing oral arguments in time for the Court's Sitting Week in September. He filled the seat vacated by Supreme Judicial Court Associate Justice Geraldine S. Hines, who retired from the court on August 18, 2017, a few months shy of reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Judicial Court, Justice Kafker served as Chief Justice of the Appeals Court from 2015 to 2017.

Justice Kafker graduated from Amherst College in 1981 and from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985, where he was on the Law Review. After law school, he served as a law clerk to Justice Charles L. Levin of the Michigan Supreme Court, then as a law clerk to Judge Mark L. Wolf of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. In 1987, he joined the Boston law firm of Foley, Hoag & Eliot as an associate. From 1991 to 1993, Justice Kafker was deputy chief legal counsel to Governor William F. Weld. In 1993, he was named chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Port Authority. He was appointed to the Appeals Court by Governor Paul Cellucci and joined the Court on March 7, 2001. Governor Baker appointed him the sixth Chief Justice of the Appeals Court on July 22, 2015.

Justice Kafker taught state constitutional law at Boston College Law School from 2009 to 2015. He has also served on the Visiting Committee of the University of Chicago Law School.


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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 

The SJC is the Commonwealth's highest appellate court.

Massachusetts Court System 

The Massachusetts court system consists of the Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court, the Executive Office of the Trial Court, the 7 Trial Court departments, the Massachusetts Probation Service, and the Office of Jury Commissioner.


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